By Noralyn A. Macabalang
KIDAPAWAN CITY – The United States government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has trained Philippine government partners in coral reef crime scene investigation and law enforcement.
In a state press statement sent to the Philippine Muslim Today newspaper on July 5, the U.S. embassy in Manila said that under the USAID’s Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans, and Landscapes (SIBOL) project, 27 representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) participated in the vital training process.
The training tackled environmental law enforcement issues like coral reef crime investigation, marine wildlife crime forensics, oil spills, and marine and coastal pollution, the embassy said.
The Filipino trainees attended lectures by international experts, and gained practical experience on diving sessions that simulated responses to environmental crime scenes, such as destruction of coral reefs due to vessel grounding, blast fishing, and poaching, the embassy statement said.
The training supports the Philippines’ national action plan for addressing wildlife crimes and its goals of strengthening law enforcement to conserve threatened species and reduce biodiversity threats, it said.
“The (Philippine) rich bounty (requires) responsibility of conserving these resources in a way that is sustainable and regenerative. We hope this activity will lead to increased cooperation among enforcement agencies on coral reef-related cases, enhancement of existing local training modules on reef protection, and development of local policy and protocols on coral reef-related investigations,” USAID Acting Environment Office Director Dr. John Piggot said.
A joint report by USAID and BFAR published last year found that illegal fishing comprised 27 to 40 percent of fish caught in the Philippines in 2019, which amounts to roughly Php62 billion ($1.3 billion) annually, the embassy said.
Through its SIBOL project, USAID works with government, private sector, and civil society partners to strengthen science-driven decision making, improve economic incentives for investments in the environment, and improve environmental law enforcement. (NAM)